Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Just watched Brendan Gleeson in "The Guard." It's an Irish gangster film obviously influenced by Guy Ritchie's British gangster films of the 90s, but the writer/director hasn't a tenth of Guy's style or ability, both of which Ritchie used to cover glaring holes in his storylines. This one's all about some amazingly stupid drug smugglers bringing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of coke into Ireland but running afoul of a guard who wouldn't give a damn what they did so long as they left him alone. But they don't, and they wind up regretting it. Of course.

Gleeson does a fine job making a bastard someone you give a damn about, but the script had every cliche in the book -- dying mom, loner, seen too much, prone to insubordination, unlikely partner after his partner is killed, amazingly stupid coincidences, knows more than his superior officers and figures it all out, and on and on and on. All done in a thick Connemara accent and a touch of the Gaelic. If I'd paid $10 to see this in a theater, I'd have been pissed.

But here's what's interesting about this -- it shows how things get done not only in Hollywood but in just about every film business around the world. The producer and executive producer are related to the writer/director. And one of the stars, Don Cheadle, is also an executive producer, meaning he helped pull together the money for it. Probably enough seed money to get the Film Board of Ireland to back the film, as well. In short, it wasn't the quality of the script; it was the quality of the star power and connections that made the project.

Something similar happened when Jim Sheridan's brother made "Borstal Boy" into a movie that was an absolute disgrace to the book. We're talking about a major bit of Irish literature so the people at the Film Board must have seen what a slice of crap the script was and how it messed so completely with the story, but because Jim had made "My Left Foot" and "In The Name of the Father" and such, his connections got it funded. And so far as I was concerned, damaged their credibility.

When I think of all the times I let myself listen to people who said good writing will rise to the top and be noticed, and also to other well-meaning people who said that my scripts weren't good enough or funny enough or needed this or that to make them better, I could kick my own ass from here to China. That was stupid and cowardly on my part, and a disservice to my characters and stories.

William Goldman's axiom that in Hollywood nobody knows anything is absolutely true, but he forgot to add that nobody really believes it.

Now for the sake of honesty I'll add, myself included...with one caveat: I know I don't.

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